When people hear that, it's usually met with one of two responses; "No really, who's your favourite team?" or they just laugh, and it's followed by, "why?"
It's regularly said that people in Tampa Bay don't even like the Rays. And when you look at their attendance, the story checks out. My girlfriend (a die-hard Jays fan) and I went to a couple Rays/Jays games in Tampa last year. We were at a bar in St. Petersburg the night before our series started, and the Rays were playing the Marlins (Florida's other MLB team). I thought "this is awesome! We're at a bar right on the ocean, and I can finally watch a Rays game on TV!" I get why the Rays don't get a lot of tv time in Western Canada, but there's no way they aren't showing the Citrus Series (Rays vs Marlins) in Florida, right?! Wrong. The big TV over the bar had hockey on it (?). The Rays/Marlins game was on a little tv in the corner of the bar instead.
People are right. Nobody cares about the Rays.
When people ask why I like them so much, I tell them the stupid story. When I was a teenager, I had a minty fresh new PlayStation video game console. I decided to buy a baseball game for it, and ended up buying MLB '99. The Rays (Devil Rays at the time) were the new kid in town. And despite the fact that had awful skill ratings in the game, I was absolutely smitten with their jerseys. Knowing NOTHING about baseball, I decided to give these guys with the sweet uniforms a shot, and that was it.
If I could go back in time, I almost certainly would've selected the Expos instead. Even if their jerseys weren't as cool, I love the Habs, and by association, should have loved the Expos. But I must have saw those Rays jerseys first, and the seed was planted. Part of me is holding out hope that the day comes where MLB finally moves them to Montreal, and I can be Montreal Rays bandwagon member #000001.
But until then, I'm gonna stick with my Rays. I genuinely like them. I like the uniforms (especially those retro ones), and there's something fun about being the only fan of a team. And dammit, they're respectable from an "on field product" perspective. The team has NO money, and they've basically become a professional farm team for the big dogs in the league. Price, Shields, Zobrist, Archer, Longoria, Rodney; the list goes on and on. A player hits their stride in Tampa, and then gets traded for cheaper prospects because the Rays can't afford to keep them. And then the cycle starts over. And despite that, they're often in the playoff hunt, and they even have a World Series appearance under their belt! (Although admittedly, I wasn't really following baseball back then). They're the little team that almost could. Despite being stuck in a division with the powerhouse Yankees and Red Sox, they find way to be at least semi-competitive most years.
They have one of the worst parks in baseball, some of the lowest attendance numbers, and they've never won a championship. But I don't care. I'm proud to be a Rays fan; even if I'm the only one.
|Go Rays Go|